Friday, December 9, 2011

Movie with Abe: New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve
Directed by Garry Marshall
Released December 9, 2011

Nothing puts you in the spirit of New Year’s Eve like celebrating the arrival of 2012 three weeks early. Warner Bros shouldn’t be faulted for trying to give this film a holiday jump-start by releasing it at the beginning of December rather than the end, and there are far more relevant problems with the film. As a sort of pseudo-sequel to the 2010 film “Valentine’s Day,” also featuring Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, and Hector Elizondo, and directed by Garry Marshall, helmer of “Pretty Woman” and “The Princess Diaries,” expectations shouldn’t be high, and this sappy holiday extravaganza delivers about as much eyeroll-inducing unlikely romance as it possibly can.

There has hardly ever been a film so overstuffed with actors. With a staggering eighteen stars credited on the poster and another five or so not listed in the main cast, it’s hard to have a scene without a wildly recognizable face in it, yet that also means that each plotline is allowed only about two or three scenes throughout the entire film to develop its characters. The cast is made up of certain distinct groups – those currently at the height of their popularity in television careers (Sofia Vergara, Lea Michele), the Oscar winners (Hilary Swank, Robert De Niro), those who haven’t done much in a while (Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry), musician non-actors (Jon Bon Jovi), young stars (Zac Efron, Abigail Breslin), and those who might be expected to star in this kind of film (Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel).

That hectic mess of people means that not much attention can be paid to each storyline, yet somehow some do manage to be fleshed out and propelled towards their inevitable happy endings with a decent amount of energy and spirit. Most of the stories lack conflict, and some do manage do develop it as the film goes on so that they actually have something to overcome. Every actor plays a character describable by occupation only, with considerably little substance. It’s perplexing that Ashton Kutcher continues to get paid merely to walk around unshaven and in pajamas, and he’s one character that exemplifies why the film just isn’t trying. The casting of Hilary Swank is peculiar since this is not the type of film she usually makes, and she does take herself a bit too seriously. Abigail Breslin manages to grow up in the span of this film from a child actor playing mature parts to what she believes to be a bona-fide adult, while Zac Efron would do well to tone down his ego a bit. Seth Meyers and Til Schweiger (“Inglourious Basterds”) manage to steal the spotlight as the husbands of two very pregnant wives, delivering the film’s funniest lines. As it approaches its conclusion, “New Year’s Eve” effectively applies some of the techniques a mass romance like this is almost required to have, faking out its audience with false positives if only to make it believe for half a second that not quite everyone might end up happily ever after.


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